UNSW Student start-up stories:
By Rachel Lee
The increasing new wave of startups this century means that failure is more common than ever. However, it also means that anyone with an idea and the means to execute it can create their startup and be called an entrepreneur. But how does an entrepreneur remain successful and driven amidst all the competition?
More interestingly, how do students make a difference while they are still actively studying at university?
#1 ChickenSoup - Eezu Tan
Eezu Tan is a third-year UNSW Commerce/Arts student majoring in Economics and Development Studies. She is the co-founder of an Edutech startup called Chicken Soup which seeks to empower university students through flexible, accessible learning. While only four months into its startup journey, Chicken Soup is proud to have won awards including People’s Choice Award for New Wave Founders, and 1st Place at UNSW Art & Design Pitch Night.
How does this startup work?
The startup I co-founded is called Chicken Soup. It is an Edutech app that seeks to empower university students with flexible, accessible learning. We match English-fluent students on campus with non-English-fluent students seeking immediate academic help. Think of it as an Uber for English help. Let’s say that you have a class in the morning, one in the afternoon, with three hours to kill in-between. You could set yourself to available on the app, and be booked by someone sitting in the same building as you to look over their work for even just 20 minutes before they hand it in. Once they have booked you, you could walk to them within minutes and be paid a fee via the app. This on-demand flexibility is tailored to uni students who are time-pressed but would like to earn some quick money in their lunch break or are seeking that last-minute help.
What was the most rewarding and challenging experience of being an entrepreneur?
While we are still early in our startup journey, the most rewarding part has been learning new skills concerning business modelling, prototyping and market validation. I have learnt these skills through the hands-on workshops of the New Wave Founders program, which has given me the confidence to bring any idea to life in the future.
The most challenging experience will be unique to every startup. Because our app is in the education space, we have faced concerns regarding its legal integrity in the event of academic misconduct taking place on our platform. Therefore, we have met with the heads of UNSW Academic Conduct who have been incredibly supportive of Chicken Soup, and have brought us valuable insights to fortify the integrity of our design.
With the increase in startups, what differentiates Chicken Soup from others, and how can it remain successful?
90%of startups fail because they often don’t attract a market need. Let’s say you’ve come up with a cool idea. You not only want to ask yourself ‘is there a gap in the market?’ but also ‘is this a solution someone would want to pay for?’. We often assume that our personal experiences would apply to everyone like us. However, just because we wish our solution existed, it does not mean that other people would pay for it too. Therefore, our startup seeks to differentiate by addressing a gap in the education market for immediate face-to-face learning.
To ensure we are addressing a market need, we must test our value proposition. As harsh as it sounds, sometimes solutions do not already exist because nobody wants them! Therefore, we have run hundreds of surveys and dozens of interviews– walking up to strangers on campus to collect data to mould our product offering to what our target customers want.
How did you maintain your studies at UNSW with working on the start-up?
It is hard, and there is a significant amount of independence in trying to guide your project. Working with a team of co-founders is like doing group work, except there is no course outline and no marking criteria, so it is easy to lose motivation when you’re blindly guiding a boat into unchartered waters. However, as with anything, if something is important to you and excites you, then you will dedicate time for it. We are fortunate to have passionate mentors from the MCIC, as well as support from UNSW Academic Conduct. This motivates our team to continue chipping away at our idea, blocking in weekly meetings and personal time to bring this idea to life.
To all the student entrepreneurs, what would be your biggest piece of advice?
For those who are interested in the startup space, but struggle with coming up with an idea, my advice is to BE SOLUTION-ORIENTED. Go through life and identify pain points. Then ask yourself ‘how can we make this better?’. The idea for Chicken Soup originated when an international student from China in one of my Arts courses asked me to look over his essay due at the end of the week. Although I wasn’t a qualified English teacher, my fluency in English was adequate to help him explain the difference between past and present tense, along with other grammar structures. It was this experience that made me the question ‘how can English- fluent students on campus help international students seeking casual academic advice?’.
What is a quote you live by?
I have a question scribbled on a sticky note that is taped to my bedroom wall. It reads: ‘what have you done in your life that has made a difference to others?’. It is a constant reminder to create meaningful value with everything I do.